Conference Coverage

Transformational change starts within medical practices



Opening the door to transformational change can be as simple as opening a door.

Dr. Priya Radhakrishnan, chief academic officer at HonorHealth Medical Group, Phoenix Gregory Twachtman/MDedge News

Dr. Priya Radhakrishnan

At least one physician can attest to this.

Priya Radhakrishnan, MD, chief academic officer at HonorHealth Medical Group, Phoenix, described one of her earliest successes in working on the Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative as her literal and figurative opening of the door between a behavioral health office and a physician health office.

In her example, which she presented in a panel on transformational change at the annual meeting of the American College of Physicians, both the behavioral health office and the physician office coordinated to have the same Medicaid patients. Because of that, when the behavioral health specialist learned of a physical condition, a “warm hand-off” was made simply by walking the patient into the doctor’s office, she said.

Transformational changes in the delivery of health care can come from events and opportunities within your medical practice. And your practice data can be the tools that guide you to make the change happen, noted Dr. Radhakrishnan and her copanelists, during the April 12 session. The panelists focused their presentation on lessons learned from the ongoing Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative, a test project of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. The project is providing assistance to physicians and practices looking to transform their organizations into using value-based care delivery models.

“I think most of us don’t realize how much power we hold over the ability to change health care within our neighborhood,” said Thomas Spain, MD, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tenn., during his presentation. “[We] have been lulled into this idea that health care will change ... when someone in Washington, D.C., finally makes a change.”

Actually, specific events in a single practice typically drive changes, he said. Most physicians who made these changes “really had very little interest in [practice changes]; then something would happen. It was a patient experience that they had, a family experience, a new program that came along” that made them realize there is an opportunity here for a physician to take the lead and make a change.

And, invariably, those physicians discovered “new satisfaction in their work through the process ... [their] practices looked very different at the end of the project,” Dr. Spain noted.

The other component to the success was looking differently at data to assure continuous data-driven quality improvement, said copanelist M. Carol Greenlee, MD, an endocrinologist and chair and counsel of subspecialty societies at ACP.

Data aren’t just about “being judged [and] not getting penalized,” she said. Data need to be viewed as a tool to really help understand the needs of the patient and the population.

Change makers “had to [ask], ‘For my population, how do I reduce admissions, what are the unnecessary tests my patients are getting, what are the unnecessary procedures?’ ” she said. Through the Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative, “we are teaching [participants] how to use data to show their value to payers ... and to find their voice in sharing their value.”

Some of the aims of the program included building solutions that were scalable, reducing unnecessary hospital admissions, generating $1 billion to $4 billion in savings, and transitioning 75% of practices completing the program to alternative payment models.

Dr. Spain noted that something as simple as moving the “if this is a medical emergency” disclaimer to the end of the outbound message at the physician office could help reduce trips to the emergency department. This could instead bring the patient to the office.

“Start small,” Dr. Radhakrishnan advised. “Value and quality freaks all of us out.”

Target small successes that can be built upon.

“Care delivery is the final mile,” Dr. Greenlee added. “We have all this medical knowledge, all the science and clinical research, and we know what to do with our guidelines, but if we don’t have care delivery, that final mile of [improving] ... the health of our patients, all of this is for naught.”

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